This year has been challenging in so many ways, but despite all the unprecedented challenges, students across North Carolina helped NCPIRG make a huge impact on some of the most profound issues affecting our generation – from protecting the environment, to combating student hunger, to turning out the youth vote and more!
Break Free From Plastics
Single-use plastics, like plastic cups, straws, and takeout containers and more, are everywhere in our society. But all this plastic waste has to go somewhere leading to plastic waste polluting our lands and harming our wildlife. Nothing we use for just a few minutes should trash our planet for hundreds of years.
That’s why NCPIRG has been calling for colleges and universities across the state to lead the charge for a plastic free NC by signing onto the Break Free From Plastic Campus Pledge and committing to eliminating unnecessary single use plastics on our campuses.
Last year, we were a part of committing Durham Technical Community College to sign the pledge making them the first community college in the country and the first school in NC to do so! This year we have been working to build on that momentum and have made huge strides toward this goal. We’ve collected over 500 petitions from students, held 4 Community Cleanups, partnered with over 15 organizations, and are continuing to meet with stakeholders including the sustainable officers, state elected officials, and campus presidents!
Fighting Hunger and Homelessness
We live in a time of abundance, where we have more than enough food in the world to feed everyone, and yet there are still a lot of people in our community struggling to put food on the table and a roof over their head. So our Hunger and Homelessness Campaign has been working for decades to help alleviate hunger and poverty by organizing food drives, holding fundraisers to help meet local needs, and passing policies that will help end hunger and homelessness on campuses.
This year volunteers in the campaign held a local speaker panel series to educate the community on problems of hunger and homelessness, met with key campus stakeholders, and collected student support for campus actions to end student homelessness.
Make Textbooks Affordable
College is way too expensive and textbooks are a big part of the out of pocket costs to students each semester. Open textbooks are textbooks published under an open copyright license, which makes them free to access and easy to use, while containing all the same high quality information. These are a great alternative to traditional textbooks and something we have been advocating for as a long term solution.
This semester students working for more affordable textbooks and education collected over 25 faculty sign ons to take cost into consideration when choosing their course materials, met with key campus stakeholders such as student government and campus librarians, and even lobbied elected officials to double the pell grants (see our meeting with US Representative David Price pictured below).
New Voters Project
This Fall our priority effort was working to make sure students’ voices were heard in the 2020 Presidential Elections. We believe that the full participation of young people in the political process is essential to a truly representative, vibrant democracy.
This fall, NCPIRG worked hard to help register hundreds of students to vote. Then in the lead up to the Election, we made over 70,000 get out of the vote reminders through events, emails, texts, phone calls, social media, and more. And the hard work paid off, youth voter turnout in NC was historic! A recent report from our friends at CIRCLE found that youth voter turnout increased from 45 percent in 2016 to 55 percent in 2020. This is the highest in nearly 50 years, since the passage of the 26th Amendment that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 in 1972.
This spring we’ve already started gearing up for the next elections by continuing to build excitement around civic engagement, work with campuses to improve voter registration and get out the vote processes, and building strong campus vote coalitions.
We teamed up with groups across the state to host a statewide week of action called “Democracy Never Sleeps.” We know civic engagement is all year long and we still have work to make sure our democracy works for everyone. So NCPIRG along with Common Cause NC, Campus Compact, Democracy NC, CEEP, and others helped host a jam packed week of educational speakers, panel discussions, and action blocks.
We’re excited about the enthusiasm for civic participation seen from our generation and we’re excited to continue working for a more meaningful future for all of us.